No Good Going Back
ATF-Little Britches Universe
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: This fic was betaed by the wonderful Helen and inspired by all the wonderful LB writers.
"Hello Mrs Potter, is something wrong?" Buck Wilmington asked with some trepidation, as he took the call from the housekeeper. With JD and Vin it was reasonable to assume there was something wrong, as the two boys were trouble magnets of the highest order.
"Im at the school - its JD; he wont come out, hes hiding in a cupboard and wont come out for anyone, not even Vin." The normally sensible and pragmatic Gloria Potter sounded at her wits end.
It had taken Chris and Buck some time and several false starts to fine a reliable housekeeper to help them look after the two boys. But once they had found Mrs. Potter things had settled down, and the boys caseworker Nettie Wells had finally come to believe that the unorthodox arrangement might work. There was no doubting the two mens devotion to their charges, but the practicalities of being ATF agents and parents had worried her for some time. Now things had settled down into a routine; Nettie approved of routine where children were concerned.
"Im on my way," he confirmed.
Buck looked up at Chris office, he was still not back from his meeting with Travis.
"Something wrong with one of the boys?" Nathan asked, as he watched Wilmington pulling on his jacket.
"Yeah, seems JDs refusing to leave the school, tell Chris Ill handle it and see him at home." And with that he was out and gone.
He found Mrs Potter in the kindergarten talking to JDs teacher, they were at the far end of the room speaking in quiet tones, as he approached he could see Vin squatting on the floor in front of the sink.
"Please JD," he pleaded, "No one's here I promise, come on, come out so we can go home! Im hungry."
There was no reply only quiet sobs from behind the cupboard doors.
"Oh Buck, good youre here," Mrs. Potter breathed in relief as the big agent approached.
"What the hel...what happened?" he asked eyeing Miss Gable, JDs diminutive teacher.
Buck approved of Miss Gable enormously. Physically she couldnt have been less like his mother but her outlook and values, at least when it came to children, were essentially the same. He had gotten the impression that not all the parents approved of him as a parent, but Miss. Gable had very supportive, and was always telling him how bright and clever little JD was.
"Well I was outside with Vin waiting for JD, we saw him come out, he saw us and waved, then he started running toward us, you know how he is."
JD had two speeds, flat out and stop, she continued.
"Then he just stopped dead in his tracks, seemed to look right past us and before we knew it, had turned around and ran inside. I thought maybe he suddenly needed the rest room but we couldnt find him any place, then Vin remembered the cupboard."
Buck looked down at Vin who was still pleading with JD.
"Why dont you and Miss Gable take Vin out and give me and littlen some space," he suggested quietly.
The sink was designed for small children to use for water play; the space below it was usually used to store the water toys, which still lay in the now empty sink. Because the sink was set so low the space below it was minute and even a boy as small as JD had to scrunch up to get in. Buck sat down cross-legged in front of the closed doors.
"JD can you hear me?" he asked.
There was the sound of more sobbing, and then between hitched breaths came a small voice.
"And you know who it is talking?"
"B B Bu..ck."
"Thats right JD, so you know whatever youre afraid of, whatever you did that got you this scared, it aint nothing you an me cant fix right?"
There was no reply.
"JD son, can I open the doors?"
Still there was no response, so he went ahead and opened the cupboard doors. JD was kneeling sideways on to the doors, his head down on the floor, hands covering both eyes. Buck had never seen JD or any child, look so terrified.
"Aw JD, what is it? Come on come and tell ol Buck all about it," he encouraged in a soft voice.
The little tear-streaked face turned away from the hands and huge reddened hazel eyes locked onto Bucks midnight blue ones. There was nothing he wanted to do more than run into Buck's arms and be enveloped in a hug so big, so long and so strong that he would know nothing could ever hurt him or upset him or harm him again. But he darent, because then the bad man would see him. So he looked away again, trying to shrink back into the cupboard more than ever.
Buck could bear it no longer, and reaching into the cupboard he lifted JD bodily out of the small recess.
"Nooo," he wailed, struggling to get back into the cupboard before the bad man saw him with Buck and hurt Buck.
"Come on JD, it's me, I won't hurt you, everything is gonna be okay," Buck soothed all the time holding the terrified boy in a strong embrace.
Buck continued his soothing litany, despite JD struggles and protests that he wanted Buck to let him go. He began to rock back and forth a little as he spoke, and little by little he felt JD's strength and resolve fading. The protests became just plain crying, the struggles turned in to a vice like grip around Buck's neck. It took well over an hour but eventually JD was cried out and passed into an exhausted sleep. Without ever disturbing the boy, Wilmington stood up and carried him outside.
"I'll take him home with me," Buck said as he headed to the old truck.
Vin was buckled in while Buck moved JD's car seat from Gloria's car into his old truck. The little five-year-old had worn himself out and slept all the way home. Once they arrived, Buck carried JD in and settled himself on the sofa without ever letting go of the tiny sleeping child, whose arms were now locked around his neck. Vin looked on not knowing what was going on, scared and confused. He had found JD beside his dead mother, together they had faced the 'trolls' as they called the gun runners they shared their warehouse home with, but he had never seen the younger boy so scared.
Buck looked across at him. "It'll be okay Vin, something scared him is all, you know what an imagination he's got?" he smiled confidently at the seven-year-old.
"Ya I know."
It was clear neither man nor boy believed what they were saying.
"Why don't you go help Mrs. Potter with supper, Chris will be home soon." That one bit of information made Vin feel better, so he went into the kitchen to see what he could do.
JD woke up when Chris came home. He looked tired and refused to let go of Buck. No one asked him what was wrong, the men had long since learnt that a softly, softly approach when it came to the boys sometimes fragile emotional stability was the best way. Though this was the first time JD had had a problem, both boys had been assessed by Dr Lowery, and Vin continued to have appointments, but JD had always seemed to be very well adjusted.
JD did let go of Buck to sit at the table and eat, but after that he climbed back onto Buck's lap. All evening he was unnaturally quiet, he didn't play in the bath and he didn't protest when Chris said it was time for bed. Buck sat on the floor of the boy's room as usual and continued to read their latest bedtime story 'King of the Wind'. Both boys had been entranced by the tale of the little Arab boy and his stallion, so far from home. He closed the book and stood to check they were asleep. JD rarely even lasted for one page, Vin not much longer. Somehow JD didn't seem to notice the bits he missed, the men assumed Vin retold the story to him at some point.
This time JD wasn't asleep, he pretended to be, but he was too scared to sleep. He had to pretend very hard when Buck kissed him on the forehead.
"Love you little fella. Whatever it is that scared you, I want you to know I'm here and I won't let anything hurt you."
Reluctantly Buck slipped out of the room, turning down the light to a soft glow. JD couldn't sleep in the dark.
"They asleep?" Chris asked as Buck came into the living room.
"Yeah. Oh God, Chris, you should have seen him! I've never seen a kid look so scared, I mean he was absolutely terrified." Buck sank down into the recliner, worry etched all over his face.
"I've been thinking, you could take a personal day tomorrow, keep JD off school, maybe see if Lowery can see him?"
Buck liked the idea of taking a day off with JD, he wasn't so sure it was so bad the boy needed to see a therapist yet.
"Yeah, I'll think on it."
"JD?" Vin whispered. There was no response. "JD, I know you're awake." Still the little boy didn't respond. Vin climbed out of bed and tiptoed over to the other bed. "JD what's the matter?" Vin knelt down by his brother's bed. "Want me t' come in?"
This finally got a response. "Yeah."
Vin climbed under the comforter and wrapped his arms around the smaller boy. JD had never not confided in him and he was as worried and confused as the adults. What he did know was that he had to protect JD, that was the task he had given himself all those months ago.
With Vin snug beside him, JD finally began to feel safe. The man had been outside the school, maybe he hadn't seen him, maybe he hadn't seen Buck or Vin or Mrs Potter, maybe he was safe? Slowly he began to relax and eventually fell asleep.
Vin woke early, he was still in bed with JD and there was something wrong. It took his sleep-fogged brain a moment to work out that JD had wet the bed. While JD slept on Vin was wet and uncomfortable. He slipped out of the bed, unsure what to do; it wasn't something he had ever had to deal with before. Even when they had been living on the street and JD had just lost his mother he had never wet the bed. The first thing he did was search through his clean clothes for some fresh pyjamas. But the wet ones smelled and so did his hands so he headed for the bathroom to wash and leave the soiled pyjamas in the laundry. As he came back he met Buck in the corridor.
"Hey champ, what's up?"
Vin hesitated, he didn't want to get JD into any trouble, but he knew he couldn't keep it secret.
"JD wet the bed," he admitted softly.
Buck had looked in on the boys when he went to bed, so he knew they were sharing a bed.
"Oh, well that happens sometimes." He squatted down in front of the slight boy. "Are you all clean and dry now?" Vin nodded, yawning as he did. "Well let's get you back into your own bed and I'll take care of Little Bit."
Vin snuggled down in his own bed; Buck ruffled his hair and gave him a soft kiss on the head. "Thank you for looking after him so well," Buck whispered before turning to JD.
Buck got the sleeping boy out of his wet nightclothes and pulled on a clean pair. JD never stirred. Then he laid JD next to Vin while he pulled off the sodden sheet and added them to the pile in the laundry. When he returned, he picked up JD again.
"You gonna be okay if I take him with me?" Buck asked Vin.
"Will you leave the door open?" Vin asked.
Hank Collins had waited months for this moment; had indeed despaired of it ever coming. It had been a fluke he even found the brat as it was. When Rachel took her kid and ran, he'd almost gone mad searching for them, and in just six hours he'd located them. But his anger and desperate need to catch up with them caused him to break the speed limit. Then - in a moment of blind stupidity he could barely forgive himself for - he didn't pull over, then the black and white caught him. Eventually captured after a short chase, he received six months for resisting arrest and had to sell his car to pay the fine. Now after months of searching he hadn't found any sign of them. He suspected she was heading west, she always went on about California, so he headed west as well. His car died in Denver, the camshaft shot to hell. Repairs would cost far more than the vehicle was worth so he was looking for a cheap alternative. In the old days he would have just stolen one, but that was too risky, there was too much at stake to risk arrest now. The cheapest place to buy a car was at a Police auction. And there it was, Rachel's horrid little car. Once he had purchased it he was able to find out she was dead, the car had been cleaned out and cleaned so that was no help, but of JD there was no sign. No death certificate was filed for him, so there was a good chance he was still alive.
Hank knew something of the way child services worked. If JD was orphaned in Denver then there was a good chance he was still in Denver. The wretched brat was always talking and even reading so he was probably in school. It wasn't difficult to find a list of elementary schools and one by one he had staked them out at the beginning and end of the school day. It took time and patience, but with so much at stake it was worth it. Having checked every school in the city he started to move out. At the sixth school he spotted him. There was no mistaking the little black mop and the never-still bouncing walk. JD had arrived with another boy and an older woman. Hank had assumed she was some kind of social worker or foster parent. Then in the afternoon the man arrived.
JD had come running out, toward the boy and the woman and then stopped, and turned around. The woman and older boy had followed him back into school. He wasn't sure he had been spotted. There were any number of reasons a boy might run back into school; a bathroom break, forgotten book or toy - who knew how kids minds worked? So he had waited and waited but they did not come out. Eventually a big old truck pulled up and a tall man ran into school. Eventually he carried JD out and put him in the truck.
Buck was awoken by hitched sobs. Dawn was lighting the room through the drapes with enough light to see JD kneeling up beside him, his eyes wide with fear and confusion, an ominous dark patch spreading across his pajama bottoms.
"JD?" Buck spoke softly, as he sat up.
The terrified boy flinched at the sound of his voice.
"It's me son, it's just ol' Buck, I won't hurt you," he whispered without moving. JD's wide eyes darted all around the room as if he didn't even recognise it. "You're at home JD, with me and Vin and Chris, you're safe, I won't let anything hurt you." He wasn't sure the small boy even heard him, much less understood until those huge hazel eyes locked onto Buck.
"Buck?" he whispered so softly it was barley audible.
"Yeah son, I'm here, you're alright." Buck desperately wanted to hug his son, so he would know he was safe and take away his fear, but he held back, JD had to make the first move.
JD looked down at his wet clothes and his sobs came a little faster.
"Shall we take care of that, get you something dry to wear?" JD's mop of black hair bobbed once, but he didn't look up. "You want to wait here while I get them or do you want to come with me?"
In response to the suggestion he would be left alone JD instantly held his hands up. Buck's heart soared; finally he could gather his son into his arms and give him the physical reassurance they both needed. Heedless of the offending and warm damp patch, he held JD close in an embrace that was tight without being crushing. JD's thumb was in his mouth. He laid his head on Buck's shoulder; the other arm snaked around to stroked his neck.
Chris found the two of them on the recliner the next morning; JD huddled up in a ball on Buck's lap under the afghan, the Cartoon Network playing quietly on the TV. After checking on Vin he made coffee and held a mug under Buck's nose. After a second or two his friend began to wake.
Buck finally worked out where he was and who was speaking. "Yeah, you could say that," he admitted. "I'm gonna take the day off - like you suggested - see if Lowery can see him." He looked down at JD, who was still asleep. "He's scared of something, but I don't lnow what. I'm not even sure he knows what it is."
Vin wasn't happy to leave JD when he was so upset, but Chris persuaded him that Buck and Dr Lowery would help him. With Buck at home all day Chris called Gloria and gave her the day off.
JD had been subdued through breakfast, but brightened considerably when he was told he didn't have to go to school. As Vin climbed into the Ram - Chris was driving him to school so he too would feel special - he waved at JD. The five-year-old was standing on the front step, both arms wrapped around one of Buck's long legs, but he smiled and released one arm long enough to wave back.
"He'll be alright," Chris assured as he pulled away from the house.
"You sure?" Vin pressed. "JD never wet the bed before, not once, even when his Momma went to sleep with angels."
"I know, Buck will help him and he's gonna go see Doc Lowery too."
Vin looked over at his new father, he was somewhat reassured. Doctor Lowery was nice; he had helped Vin with his 'feel bad' thoughts. Perhaps he could help JD with his scary ones.
JD looked up at Buck and grinned, and was rewarded with a grin in reply. "What are we gonna do?" he asked.
"Well I have a few chores to do and then I though ol' Beau would like a run out. You think he's like that?"
JD nodded enthusiastically, and instantly darted toward the barn, only to be stopped mid flight by Buck's large hand on his collar.
"Whoa there boy, I told you I have chores to do first so you come in and play for a bit."
He almost gave in as those little shoulders slumped, but one of the chores was calling the doctor. Lowery could fit JD in the next day, so Buck would have the day to be with his son.
Feeling relaxed and safe in his own home, Buck didn't see the man watching the ranch as he and an excited JD finally exited the house and walked - JD actually bounced rather than walked - out to the barn. Nor did he see him as he rode out on his faithful grey, JD safely sitting in front of him.
Man and boy had a great time riding in the foothills of the Rockies, and only when they headed for home did Buck broach the topic of what had scared JD.
"Little Bit?" he asked softy.
"Can you tell me why you were so scared yesterday, why you didn't want to come out of the cupboard?" Buck felt the small boy stiffen, his head shook. "You know I won't let anything hurt you - don't you?" Buck assured.
JD had faith in his father, but the scary man was very scary indeed, he had hurt JD's mom and he might hurt Buck.
"I know," he admitted in a halting voice.
"But you can't tell me about it?"
JD shook his head then he started to try and twist around in the saddle. Knowing instinctively what was needed Buck quickly knotted his rains and dropped them so he could lift JD up and turn him around. Now sitting facing his father, JD's arms hung on to Buck and he rested his head against his father's chest, listening to the comforting rhythm of the big man's heart. Beau didn't even break stride as he ambled his way home.
By the time they got back to the ranch JD was feeling more secure and in desperate need of the bathroom.
"JD quit yer wriggling," Buck admonished as they entered the yard.
"But I'm bursting!" the small boy explained.
"Alright, hang on."
Buck lowered JD to the ground and quickly dismounted. With JD dancing beside him, he tied up his horse and then ran with JD to the house. Once the door was unlocked, JD darted inside.
"I'm gonna put Beau away, okay?" Buck called after him.
"Yeah!" came the reply as the boy tore toward the bathroom.
Buck shook his head and turned back to the yard to see to his horse.
Vin had ridden to school in the Ram but he came home on the bus. Jumping down onto the dusty driveway that led to the ranch, he waved at his friends and set off at a run, backpack swinging from side to side as he pounded along. He wasn't surprised to find the door open and ran in calling to JD as the screen door banged behind him. He didn't notice the state of the living room as he let his backpack drop and ran on to his and JD's room.
"I'm back!" he called.
In the bedroom doorway he stopped, staring in horror at the wrecked room.
"JD!" he shouted angrily, "What did you do?"
There was no response to his shouts, so he turned and walked back through the living room. Now he wasn't running he saw that it too had been trashed, cushions all over the place, furniture pulled out, books on the floor. Vin began to realise that this wasn't just JDs high spirits. Fear gripped his young heart, he wanted to run out to the barn and find the others, then it wouldn't be as scary as it looked now, but he didn't, not yet. Vin turned and went toward the den, even before he got to the door he could see it had been ransacked. But that wasn't all.
"Hi, Buck." Larabee answered the phone, recognising Wilmington's cell phone number.
"C C Chris?"
Chris' heart skipped a beat as he recognised Vin's hesitant voice.
"Vin? Vin what's wrong?"
"I f f found Buck, he won't wake up an' an' I can't f f find JD," his son sobbed.
Chris picked up the stapler and threw it at the glass wall of his office. On hearing the impact, three faces looked up at to see him gesturing frantically. As they came running in Chris was explaining to Vin he was going to put him on speakerphone.
"Now your Uncle Ezra is calling 911 and the ambulance is coming."
Ezra's eyes widened, as he automatically pulled his call phone out and backed away from the desk as he dialled. He had no idea why an ambulance was needed, but he made the call and promised the operator more information as he got it.
They listened in horror as Vin explained about coming in and finding the house wrecked and Buck unconscious in the den.
"Vin, listen to me, Uncle Nathan is gonna ask you some questions now." Larabee looked up at Jackson, who nodded.
"Vin son, is Buck lying on the floor?"
"On his back or his front?" Please don't let it be on his front, he silently pleaded.
"He's on his side, he's bleeding, there's lots of blood on the floor."
The men's fear jumped another notch.
"From where Vin, where is he bleeding from?" Jackson pressed.
"I I don't know, I'm scared."
"I know son," Chris spoke softly. "Listen, me and your Uncles are coming now, Uncle Nathan is gonna stay here and talk to you until we get there - okay?"
"I can't find JD, I didn't look for him, I'm sorry," Vin sobbed.
"It's alright, we'll find him, you just stay with Buck and talk to Nathan."
Chris ushered the others out. "Josiah, put out an alert for JD, Ezra you come with me!"
Vin's first reaction on finding Buck was to run to his side and shake him, call his name, to try anything to wake him up, but nothing worked. He knelt there, tears beginning to roll down his cheeks, as he tried to workout what to do. What would Chris do? He asked himself. Only then did he scramble for the phone, but the phone was dead, it made no sound at all, no matter how he many times he hit the speed dial for Chris's office number. Vin wasn't to know then that the phone line had been ripped from the wall. He ran back into the den.
"Buck please wake up," he pleaded. "Please, the phone won't work, I wan' Chris." He shook the inert man on the floor, but he didn't even groan. Vin looked around the room in desperation. The computer - did he remember how to start the computer and send Chris an e-mail? No, he didn't know the password. Than as he looked at the useless computer he realised how dumb he was. On the back of the chair was Buck's jacket, his cell phone would be in the pocket. It took Vin a few tries to get the phone to dial Chris office number - it never did occur to Vin to call 911 for himself.
"Ill drive," Ezra stated, heading for his Jag.
"The hell you will!" Chris was all but running toward his Ram.
"Chris!" Ezra called, but his boss just kept on running, Ezra trailing behind him. "Mr Larabee!" he called again.
Only when Chris reached his car and had to stop to open the door did Ezra reach him.
"Stop." Ezra put his hand over Chrison the door handle. Despite the death glare he received, he continued to explain. "You are understandably distressed and anxious to reach both Buck and young Vincent but that is not conducive to safe driving, be assured I will get us there as swiftly and safely as possible, within or without the traffic laws, but I will get us there in one piece."
For a moment he thought Larabee was going to fight him, but eventually he nodded his acceptance and pulled his hand back from the door.
"Vin?" Nathan prompted.
"Yeah?" came the hesitant reply.
"Im gonna need you to be brave and help me to help Buck okay?"
Vin wasnt sure, but he wanted to help and he trusted his uncle Nathan. "Okay."
"Look real close at Buck for me, can you see where the blood is coming from?"
Vin had been trying not to look at the blood, but he forced himself. "From his leg I think."
"Good boy, can you see where exactly. Can you tell me what the wound looks like?"
Vin gulped and looked more closely at the blood-soaked jeans. "I think there's a hole in his leg, " Vin explained hesitantly.
Nathan swore under his breath, it sounded as if Buck had been shot. "Vin I know this is scary but Chris is coming, but I need you to help Buck."
"O O Okay."
Vin sounded absolutely terrified and Nathan hated that he was scaring him more, but he also had to help Buck as much as he could and that meant getting a frightened eight-year-old to listen to him and follow instructions.
"Vin, is blood still coming out of the hole?"
Vin forced himself to look again. "Yeah. It's sort of gurgling up."
Damn! "Okay, Vin I want you to put the phone down "
"Listen, it'll be alright. "Put it down but don't hang up, just put it down and run into the bathroom, grab a clean towel off the shelf - it doesnt matter which one - and come back and talk to me. Can you do that?"
"I don't wanna leave Buck," Vin admitted.
"I know, but this will help him, I promise."
Vin managed to do as he was told in record time. "I'm back!" he panted desperately into the cell phone.
"Well done son, now is the towel still folded up?"
"Good, I want you to put the folded towel over the hole in Buck's leg and push down on it as hard as you can for me." It was a calculated risk, if Buck had broken bones, Vin could cause more damage, but if blood was coming up out of the wound, there was a good chance an artery was affected, he could bleed to death right there in front of Vin.
There were muffled sounds as Vin obeyed, then a small cry of alarm. It was clear from the sounds that the cell phone was on the floor.
"VIN!" Nathan shouted. "VIN! Pick up the phone!"
"I hurt him, I hurt him," came the panicked voice.
"Tell me what happened?"
"I pressed and he made a noise and he moved and his face went all scrunched up. I hurt Buck!" Vin was crying again and Nathan could hear him apologising to a presumably still unconscious Buck.
"Vin!" he called repeatedly until he heard the sound of the hitched breathing in his ear again. "I know it may have hurt him, I know, but you have to do it."
"No, I don't wanna hurt him. I want Chris."
"I know son and he is coming, but we have to stop the bleeding. Remember when you got that splinter under your nail and I had to pull it out?"
"It hurt a lot didn't it?"
"But I had to do it. This is like that, I know it hurts him, but you have to do it."
Vin remembered Nathan explaining why the splinter had to come out, even thought having it taken out was more painful that leaving it were it was.
"Okay." He pushed down on the already blood soaked towel and pushed. Buck groaned and twitched, but he ignored it, pushing for all his worth. His Uncle Nathan said it was the right thing to do and that was as good as gospel to Vin.
He was still there when the paramedics came running in. In fact they had a job to convince him to stop, only when one of them held the cell phone to his ear so Nathan could reassure him, did he relinquish care of his beloved Buck to the strangers. The paramedics were loading Buck into the ambulance when the Jag tore up the drive.
JD sat in the passenger seat of his mom's old car in terrified silence. To start with he had cried, but the man had told him to 'shut up' or hed cut his tongue out. Now he sat silently, back handing tears away as fast as he could in case the man didn't like them and cut his eyes out. The first time they stopped at a junction, JD tried to get out of the car, but the man had locked the door.
"Sit still, kid!" he had shouted, his hand shooting out and slapping JD on the cheek. It stung and burned, but he was too scared to cry.
Now JD just sat still and silent as the car headed east. It was going to take nearly twelve hours, maybe more to reach their destination, to go back to were it all started. Hank was determined to get there as fast as possible, with any luck the brat would go to sleep while he drove on through the night. In the small hours he stopped to fill up the car and grab some food. JD, despite his fear had finally fallen asleep. He woke when Hank left the car, locking him in. It seemed to the small boy that it was hours before the man came back.
"You need to pee?" he asked as he opened the door. JD shook his head. "You sure kid, 'cause if you piss in the car I'll cut it off."
JD's eyes grew wide as saucers, his hands automatically moved to protect himself.
"So kid, you need to pee or what?"
JD swallowed and then nodded. The man grabbed him by the back of his shirt and pulled him from the car and stood him outside in a dark corner of the truck stops parking lot.
JD's hand fumbled with his pants, he tried not to cry, biting his lip so hard it bled. Finally he managed to accomplish the task, and was shoved back into the car. At no time did his kidnapper offer him food, or even a drink.
The police arrived at the ranch not long after the paramedics, one of them stayed with Vin while the others started to search for JD. Vin kept telling them he wasn't hiding, he was missing, JD had hidden at school when he was scared, but Vin just knew JD wouldn't hide when Buck needed him. If JD had been there he would have called for help himself. JD was a smart kid, a lot smarter than Vin, that was for sure, he could work the cell phone. But despite his protests the officers wasted time - as Vin saw it - searching the barn, house and out buildings.
Just as they were ready to load Buck onto the ambulance and Vin was insisting he had to go too, because Buck shouldn't be alone at the hospital, the Jag tore up the drive. Chris was out and running toward him, even before it stopped.
"Dad!" Vin cried as he flew to his father.
Chris dropped to his knees and enveloped Vin in his arms, holding him as closely and completely as he could.
"I's so scared dad, Buck won't wake up and JD ain't here and they won't look for him."
"Who won't look?" Chris asked without letting go of him.
"The police, I told them JD ain't here, he wouldn't hide if Buck was hurt, he just wouldn't!"
Chris rubbed a gentle circle on the distraught child's back. "I know, I know, hush, I'm here now, we'll get it sorted out."
Just then Ezra passed the two of them; he patted Vin on the head and handed his car keys to Chris.
"I'll call you as soon as I know anything," he assured. With that, and flashing his ATF ID as he approached, he climbed into the ambulance as it sped away.
"Buck'll be okay - won't he?" Vin asked anxiously.
Chris watched the ambulance speeding away over his son's shoulder, siren blaring, lights flashing, and he wasn't so sure. "Course he will, ol' Buck's harder t' kill than a rock."
"You can't kill a rock."
"See what I mean!" He looked down at Vin and smiled. "Seriously, Buck's big and strong and tough, he'll be fine. Your Uncle Ezra will look after him."
Finally Vin let a small smile appear. "Uncle Ezra's good at looking after you when you're sick."
"Yeah I know." With that Chris stood up and taking Vin by the hand walked toward the police officer on the porch. Just as he got there another car roared up the drive.
Josiah informed them that Nathan was on his way to the hospital and offered to look after Vin while Chris spoke to the police. Vin wasn't so sure he wanted to be parted from Chris, even to go to his beloved uncle.
Chris didn't really want to let Vin go either. Right now he wanted to hold on to his son 24-7 and never let him out of his sight. But for all of them, but especially JD, he had a job to do. "Vin, I need you to be brave, go with Josiah so I can help the police find JD, okay?"
Vin looked up at Chris and then over at Josiah. Finally he reached out and took Sanchez's big hand, before reluctantly releasing his father's.
Ezra watched anxiously as the paramedics worked in the back of the cramped vehicle to stabilise his friend, to stop - or at least slow - the bleeding. Buck was so pale his skin looked almost translucent, his lips tinged with blue.
"You know his blood type?"
Ezra was so transfixed by the sight of Buck, big, loud, full of life Buck, lying so still and pale he didn't even hear the question.
"Mister!" the paramedic prompted.
"Sorry - what?"
"Do you know his blood type?"
"What? Oh, oh yes, he's O positive."
"Okay." With that he started speaking to the hospital on the radio.
Ezra was no medic but he knew this was bad. Buck already had two IV's in his arm and they were talking about taking him straight to surgery, not even stopping in the ER. While the medic spoke on the radio Ezra took the opportunity to get closer to his friend. Taking an alarmingly cold and clammy hand he whispered in his ear.
"I promise you - no I swear on my life, on everything I hold dear, on my love for those boys - we will find JD, we will bring him back to you, believe that, my fine, brave friend and hold on to it."
Ezra suddenly became aware that the paramedic, who was called Carl, had stopped speaking and was watching him.
"I'm, that is I "
"Don't stop, you're doing the best thing for him right now, nothing more I can do," the young man assured.
The ranch house was a dead end; there were no clues as to who took JD, presumably shot Buck, where they went or why they did it. Much of the forensic evidence had been lost, destroyed or contaminated in the frantic effort to save Buck. As far as they could tell he had been shot once, probably a small calibre weapon, at close range. The house had been ransacked before the shooting because there was blood on top of the scattered cushions but not under them. Nothing of JD's appeared to be missing, no clothes, no toys, even his toothbrush. Other than that they knew nothing.
Chris had, with the permission of the CSI officers, retrieved Cat for Vin was now sitting in the Jag with Josiah, while the police finished their work. Josiah was desperate to do something - anything - to help, but there was nothing he could do, and Vin needed him. Vin was snuggled against his chest, Cat's tail pressed up under his nose, watching Chris talking to two men in dark suits who had just arrived.
"Uncle 'Saih?" he whispered.
"Who are they?"
Josiah sighed inwardly. "They are the FBI, son."
"Feebs?" Vin exclaimed with evident disgust.
Josiah shook his head; they really were going to have to learn to watch what the said around the boys, they both had ears like bats and memories like elephants.
"Yeah feebs, they arent that bad, really." Vin craned his head back to look at Josiah critically. "Honest," he assured.
"So why are they here?"
"Well, see the FBI are always called when, when "
"When what, Uncle 'Saih?"
"When a child is kidnapped."
He felt Vin tighten his hold on his shirt as he looked away from the men in suits talking to his father, but he didn't say anything more, content now to just sit with his uncle and clutch Cat until Chris came back and made everything alright again. Vin had no doubt that he would, Chris could fix anything, he'd find JD and not the silly old feebs.
The older of the two agents Chris had been speaking to was called away to speak to the CSI officer, leaving Chris with the younger man.
"We've put out alerts, the airport, buses, trains, but well," the agent looked up at Larabee. " you know yourself if they're in a car and we have no idea what car, they could be anywhere. We have sent the local PD and Highway covering as many rest stops as we can on all the main roads out of the city, but..."
"But without some information about what direction they are headed in youre pissing in the wind," Chris supplied.
"What about TV and radio?"
The agent shook his head. "If John...,"
"JD," Chris corrected.
"Sorry, JD, if he was just missing and his father's injury apparently accidental, then we wouldn't hesitate, but it does look like a kidnapping, in which case our policy would be a media blackout."
"But why kidnap JD?" Chris asked. "We don't have any money. Neither of us is due to testify against anyone. If it's someone Buck put away - why take JD, if you've just shot Buck?"
"I can't give you any answers agent Larabee."
"I know, God help me I know, we just have to wait and see what Buck can tell us when he wakes up."
"If he ever does," the agent hadn't meant to speak out loud but it was too late. Chris had been moving away, now he turned and rounded on the hapless man, grabbing his lapels.
"Don't say that! Don't ever say that! Do you hear me?"
"Y Y Yes sir!"
"How long have you been in Denver?" Chris pressed, still not letting go of the young man.
"Um, err, well about two months, I guess."
"Right, well when you've been here a bit longer you'll get to know Buck and you'll know he wouldn't leave his boy, not for anything, I "
"Larabee! Put him down."
The voice was that of the other FBI agent, an older man called Frankle, who had locked horns with Team Seven in the past, but had a grudging respect for them. Frankle turned to his young partner, once Chris had released him.
"What did you say?"
The younger man, whose name was Martinez, spoke softly to his superior.
"Idiot!" With that Frankle turned to face Chris. "Who's with Wilmington at the hospital?"
"Well all we can do now it wait. The CSI reckon Wilmington was shot in the boy's room, he lay there for some time, then tried to get to the phone, but the line into the house has been cut. It looks like he then headed for the den." The agent looked puzzled. "Would he be trying to send an e-mail?"
Chris shook his head. "He leaves his jacket in there, his cell was probably in the pocket."
Frankle nodded. "I suggest you see to your boy, there isn't much more you can do right now."
Ezra was pacing in the surgical waiting room when Nathan arrived.
"How is he?" the tall medic asked.
Ezra shrugged. "They took him straight to surgery, they didn't even stop in the ER." Ezra looked away towards the big double doors, beyond which the doctors worked to save Buck's life. "I've never see anyone look so pale," he confessed, with evident worry.
"He was alive when he got here. He wasn't intubated " Nathan suddenly moved so he was facing Standish. "He wasn't, was he?"
Ezra shook his head.
"Good, thats good, he's gonna be fine. They'll find the bleed, stop it, replace the blood and he'll be fine, just fine."
Even to Nathan it didn't sound convincing, but just saying it helped.
An hour later, more than half an hour since the surgery had started, the doctor finally came out. Instantly the two agents pounced on him, demanding information.
"Gentlemen, if you would just let me speak?"
"Sorry." Nathan backed off.
"Of course doctor, my apologies."
"The bullet hit several major blood vessels and nicked the femoral artery." Ezra heard Nathan hiss and curse under his breath. "However, despite the loss of blood Mr Wilmington came through the surgery well, considering."
"Considering?" Ezra asked.
"His heart stopped on the table twice, briefly. But he's stable now and on his way to recovery."
"So he's going to be alright?" Nathan pressed.
"His life isn't in any immediate danger, infection is still a possibility, and it will be a few days before we know if any nerves were damaged. Though personally I doubt it."
"Doctor, how long before he comes around?" Ezra asked.
The doctor seemed to be weighing up his answer. "From the operation, no more than half an hour - I hope - but he'll most likely go straight to sleep after that for hours."
"I need to speak to him when he wakes, the minute he wakes. I'll need to be with him - in recovery," Standish explained.
It took Ezra and Nathan a while to convince the medical staff that they had to be there when Buck came around from the anaesthetic.
"Doctor," Ezra explained for the third time. " his son has been kidnapped. He is the only witness. Mr Wilmington would gladly endure the torments of hell to keep that boy safe."
"I know it isn't ideal doctor, but anything he can tell us might be critical." Normally Nathan would have been on the doctor's side, but at that moment they had no idea where JD was, any snippet could be crucial. Buck would never forgive them if they arrived a few seconds too late to rescue JD.
Buck was connected to a heart monitor, his blood pressure was constantly monitored, he was on oxygen but not - thankfully - a ventilator. He had already had a blood transfusion in the theatre, but a full bag of dark blood hung above him, its tube snaking in to his left arm, another bag of clear fluid fed into his right arm.
Ezra hovered in the background as the recovery room staff got his friend settled. Nathan had warned him, that with the blood loss, it might take Buck longer then normal to regain his senses. Once the nurses moved back he took his seat beside the bed. Buck wasn't as pale as he had been in the ambulance, but he still looked like a ghost to Ezra. It had been nearly forty minutes, and even the doctor was beginning to get anxious when suddenly, Buck's head began to roll on the pillow and he began to mutter. Ezra was on his feet instantly.
"Buck?" he called, his voice soft but urgent.
"JD." Buck muttered.
"Where is he? Where's JD?" Ezra asked.
One of the nurses came over but Nathan intervened swiftly to stop her interfering.
Buck's head rolled again, he tried to lift it off the bed. "JD," he called again.
"Come on Buck, come back to me, I need to talk to you."
Suddenly Wilmington's eyes snapped open. A look of pure panic on his face as he looked franticly around the room.
"Buck? Buck it's me - Ezra," Standish placed his palm gently on his distressed friend's cheek.
Fear-filled blue eyes suddenly locked on to Ezra. "JD! He took JD!"
"I know, I know," Ezra soothed. "Who Buck? Who was it?"
"My boy, I gotta find my boy." Buck tried to push of the bed. Ezra instantly pushed him back, being joined by Nathan and the nurse. "No! No let me go I gotta find JD."
Ezra let the other two hold the distressed man down, while he tried to calm Buck enough to get information. Placing a hand either side of the disorientated man's face he forced him to look at him.
"Think Buck, tell me what happened," he instructed firmly.
"He took my boy," Buck's voice was no longer frantic now, it was just desperate.
"I know, you have to think - what happened?"
Buck frowned. "There was a man in JD's room, he was hurting him. I I ran help JD, and he shot me."
"What happened then?" Ezra prompted.
"Couldn't see, he asked him, 'where is it?'. JD said, 'lost it'."
"What? What did JD lose?"
Buck shook his head. "D'no, he shouted at JD, he hit him." Suddenly his hand moved and grabbed hold of Ezra. "Oh God! He hit him, he hit my JD!"
"We'll find him," Ezra promised. "Can you remember anything else?"
"Home, back, they're going back back to were it started. JD said 'boot house'."
"Boat house?" Ezra asked.
Buck was tiring rapidly; his head fell back onto the pillow.
"Where? What city?"
"Kan Kan " With that his eyes closed, and every ounce of tension left his body.
"Buck?" Ezra called urgently, even shaking Wilmington slightly.
"That's it!" the nurse broke away from Nathan and all but pulled Ezra away from the bed.
Nathan looked over at Ezra. "Kan?"
Ezra shrugged. "Kansas? Or maybe Kansas City, and we get the right place, where do we find this boat house?"
The pain that still stung his cheek and ear where the man had hit him kept JD awake, that and the fear. He had this vision of his beloved Buck lying on the floor with his leg covered in blood, and he couldn't get rid of it. He wasn't dead, he knew that, he'd seen Buck move and heard him moan. He wanted to be back with Buck, but maybe Buck wouldn't want him now. It was his fault the scary man had hurt Buck, it was him the man was looking for, not Buck. The other reason he couldn't sleep and his ear hurt was the music, it was very loud and JD couldn't understand the words. At first he thought it was a foreign language but he heard odd words that he did understand. It wasn't like the music Chris and Buck liked. Chris played mostly music with no singing, JD sometimes recognised the tunes as coming from movies. Buck liked Elvis and someone called Meatloaf - which JD thought was a very silly name - and the Queen, thought he hadn't yet worked out who the Queen was queen of, but he sang like a man. JD liked "We Are the Champions" best, he and Buck sang it if he got all his spellings right.
Huddled in his seat JD risked a look at the man driving his mom's car. He hadn't changed much. JD remembered him coming to the apartment, he would say nasty things to his mom and she had to give him money. He was so scary that JD took to hiding when he came. He had a very, very good hiding spot, where he hid all his treasures, and it was just big enough for him to squeeze into as well.
One day the man arrived unexpectedly, JD had hardly any time to hide and left some of his best toys outside. The man was mad at his mom, shouting and smashing things, he couldnt see but he could hear. He heard his mom cry, heard her fall and get up and fall again. But he stayed hidden. Then there had been more voices and banging, the voices were outside. JD heard them shout thinks like "Hank!" and "We know you're in there!" The had used bad words too, words Buck had to pay big money for if he said them, words he wasn't allowed to say - ever. Suddenly there had been a great splintering of wood and the voices were louder there was running feet and sounds JD hadn't understood. He wasn't sure how long he stayed in the hiding place after it all went quiet, but eventually his mother's voice was calling softly to him.
"Baby? It's Mamma darling, come on out now, it's safe now little one."
JD didn't move instantly, too scared to even respond to his mother's voice, it took another three attempts to get him to crawl forward. JD had then clung to his mother for hours, barely noticing the cuts and bruises she had acquired in whatever fracas had taken place in the meagre little apartment.
The man did not return, but JD was so scared that he would, he hid all his toys in the hiding place whenever they went out. On day JD's mom told him they was going out, so he hid his treasures in the hiding place. The trouble was they never went back to the apartment, by the time his mom realised her son had no toys with him, it was too late. Having made her break for freedom, there was no going back.
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